PG Score: 7.5/10
The Invisible Man delivers on multiple levels. As a thriller, it’s ripe with tension stemming from trauma that’s very much grounded in reality. It boasts some cutting edge sci-fi elements that are both clever and chilling. It’s at its best, however, when it’s doling out a steady supply of sinister suspense. The film is a reimagining of the 1933 classic of the same name. This is a much darker take than the original and follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) after the suicide of her abusive ex-boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She soon comes to believe that he is actually very much alive. The Invisible Man is anchored by a stellar performance from Elisabeth Moss. This is some of the best work she’s ever done. She’s in virtually every scene and her range is on full display throughout. Her character, Cecilia, is suffering from the aftermath of her exceptionally volatile relationship with her ex. The effects of the abuse that Adrian inflicted upon her are evident during the entire film. This is a credit to Moss’s ability to effectively convey the living nightmare that the protagonist was subjected to. The fact that the past abuse is never shown onscreen, yet still felt through her performance speaks volumes for how elite of an actress she is. This is the type of movie that hinges on the performance of the lead and Moss doesn’t miss a beat. Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) has crafted something very unique in TIM. The blending of genres feels very natural here and there are no abrupt shifts as the film changes gears. While there is certainly a sci-fi aspect in play, the source of the terror that Cecilia is forced to endure is something that exists in the real world today. The psychological piece also works very well. As the main character’s sanity is brought into question, Whannell keeps giving the viewer just enough to keep the tension high without revealing too much. At its essence, The Invisible Man is a slow-burn thriller that excels in the art of suspense. A big part of why the horror element shines so bright during the first two thirds of the film is because it’s used so sparingly. Much of the tension that’s created stems from the consistently churning suspense. However, the few frights that do occur are genuinely unsettling. Whannell doesn’t rely on jump scare tactics to elicit a reaction. Instead, he wisely turns to good, old-fashioned atmospheric horror. There are moments of dead silence that particularly hit home. These instances build upon the existing foundation of fear that Cecilia is experiencing.
The camera angles employed here are masterful. As the title suggests, The Invisible Man contains a lot of screen time when only Elisabeth Moss is visible. As a result, the camerawork is pivotal to the success of the horror element. There are more than a few clever tricks used but none of the shots feel gimmicky or cheap. The technical aspect of the movie is definitely a highlight. Towards the third act of its two hour runtime is when things go downhill a bit. Coincidentally, this is also when most of the bloodshed occurs. The violence is by no means limited to the climax, but this is when the more frenetic sequences take place. While these scenes do elevate the already stunning special effects, it’s hard not to feel like the film is simultaneously losing a step. The suspense that was almost palpable in the first 90 or so minutes evaporates, and TIM has a different feel. It’s not a full-on loss of identity but the shift is significant.
Another area that suffers is the sound. There are a few points when a somewhat blaring sound effect is used. While it does match the onscreen action, it’s still distracting and feels unnecessary. During the finale, this effect is used more frequently and at a louder decibel so this previously minor annoyance becomes that much larger of a distraction. Lastly, the pacing takes a hit towards the end. Even though there’s technically a lot more going on, the last 25 minutes feel a little disjointed. It drags on for a spell, then speeds through haphazardly to the final segment. While it is still a very good movie, these negatives prevent it from being something truly special.
TIM is a unique thriller featuring a phenomenal performance from Elisabeth Moss. Despite being weighed down by several flaws in the final act, The Invisible Man is certainly worth seeing...or trying to anyway.